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Access to Care

The Gabriella Patser Program

The Gabriella Patser Program was established to ensure that low-income, uninsured women and men under the age of 40 have access to critical diagnostic services for breast health problems, and to benefit from early detection of breast cancer.

“If it weren’t for the Gabriella Patser Program my breast cancer would have gone undetected.”
Brandi, 27

Understanding the Affordable Care Act’s Impact:
Why the Patser Program is Still Critical for the Uninsured

What is the Affordable Care Act?
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law on March 23, 2010 to reform health care in America. The intention of the ACA is to make health insurance coverage more secure and reliable for Americans who have it, make coverage more affordable for families and small business owners, and bring down skyrocketing healthcare costs that have put a strain on individuals, families, employers, and the Federal budget.

What is the Gabriella Patser Program?
Bay Area Cancer Connections’ Gabriella Patser Program was established in December 1994 to ensure that women and men’s access to breast cancer screening and diagnostic procedures would not be limited by ability to pay. The goal of this program is to fill the gap in services for uninsured, low income women under the age of 40 and men of all ages who present with a breast health issue suspicious of breast cancer. These women and men are below the federal poverty line, and are not eligible for California’s Cancer Detection Program which only provides breast cancer screening and diagnostic services for women who are age 40 and above. The Gabriella Patser Program partners with 113 referral clinics and 39 medical providers throughout 10 Bay Area counties to grant these critical breast screening and diagnostic services. In addition, the program provides personal navigation of the medical system, Spanish/English interpretation assistance, breast health education, emotional support, and case management.  

What are the barriers to ACA enrollment?
Among those who remained uninsured in 2014, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that the most common barrier to health insurance enrollment was not being able to afford coverage (34%). Another 15% reported that the main reason they remained uninsured was that they didn’t qualify for coverage or financial help.

Who is still uninsured?
While the ACA is expected to reduce California’s uninsurance rate by at least half, it is projected that between 2.7 and 3.4 million Californians will remain uninsured by 2019. Californians projected to remain uninsured are also more likely to live in households with incomes of 200% of the Federal Poverty Level or less, which is equivalent to $23,340 for a single individual and $47,700 for a family of four in 2014. Low-income households are projected to make up approximately two-thirds of the remaining uninsured in 2019, compared to 38% of the California population.

In Santa Clara County an estimated 167,584 Santa Clara County residents still remain uninsured. There are a number of reasons why: some are ineligible for coverage due to documentation status; some missed signing up for coverage during Covered California enrollment periods; others cannot afford the coverage offered through their employer; and other still are no enrolled into Medi-Cal or simply choose not to enroll.

Why is the Gabriella Patser Program still needed?
The program exists to help those who don’t have access to healthcare for breast cancer screening and diagnostics. Because two-thirds of Californians projected to remain uninsured are low income, adequate funding for Bay Area Cancer Connections’ Gabriella Patser Program continues to remain an important priority.

To learn more about this program please contact Colleen Kleier, Director of Programs and Services.



Which Californians will Lack Health Insurance under the Affordable Care Act?

By Laurel Lucia, Miranda Dietz, Ken Jacobs, Xiao Chen, and Gerald F. Kominski

UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education

UCLA Center for Health Policy Research

How does the Program work?

A primary care medical professional must examine you and determine if your breast health issue and situation are appropriate for application to the program.

There are currently over 90 community clinics throughout the Greater Bay Area participating as referral agencies for the Patser Program. Each clinic has been trained on how to refer a patient to the program and has the application forms in their office.

To find a referral clinic near you call Donaji Olivares, Program Coordinator at (650) 326-6299, ext. 21.

Eligible Criteria

  1. Women under the age of forty. Men of any age.
  2. Breast health problem suspicious of a malignancy or a strong family history of breast cancer (two first-degree relatives).
  3. Uninsured or under-insured.
  4. Family income less than or equal to 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.

Services Provided

  • Clients receive the necessary services to diagnose their breast health issue from participating Patser providers (physicians and facilities in the area who contract with BCC to provide these services at reduced rates).
    • Service may include breast ultrasound, mammography, surgical consultation, breast MRI, and biopsy.
  • Clients receive these services free of charge. Providers bill BCC directly for the services provided.
  • Help is provided to clients every step of the way to navigate the medical system, including interpreting and transportation assistance.

Why women under 40?

Early detection makes a critical difference in women’s chances of survival, especially young women whose tumors are often more aggressive and may require more aggressive treatments than their post-menopausal counterparts.

California has a state-funded program that provides screening and diagnostic services to underserved women over 40, but there are no resources for women under 40 or men of any age. The Gabriella Patser Program provides a safety net for the young women who present at risk for breast cancer but do not qualify for state assistance due to their age.

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